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An overview of S.R. and Constituents' Luggage Labels

by Mike Morant

This aspect of railway esoteria is fairly well documented which is surprising as there is very little related documentation to support it. Nobody knows for certain who actually printed the labels but it's probable that they were not printed by the railways themselves. In modern parlance that implies that they were 'outsourced'.

So, why should there be a fascination for what at first sight appears to be a somewhat obscure aspect of railway history? Well, history is certainly what it is and there can be no argument with that in addition to which luggage label collecting, genarally, seems to be a growing hobby which isn't altogether surprising as it has become one of the few ways in which aspiring railwayana collectors can afford to possess their own piece of that history.

Having used the term 'generally' in the previous paragraph it should be made clear that we are concerned only with the Southern and its constituents on this web site but reference might also be made to other railways in the interests of completeness as the Southern was never isolationist and produced labels to some very unlikely destinations.

Whilst writing this page, the author realised that, although the SREmG site is probably perused by (mainly) an ageing group of enthusiasts, there will almost certainly be other visitors from younger generations who are well aware of rolling stock and infrastructure history but have absolutely no idea of what a luggage label is or what it was used for as the form of travel for which they were intended disappeared from general railway usage many moons ago.

In essence, the labels were issued gratis, stuck to passengers' luggage and helped to ensure that the luggage reached the same destination as the passenger bearing in mind that the luggage might well have been transported in a luggage or guard's van separately from the passenger.

An example from the Southern and each of its best known constituents.
Note that the Dorking label has no railway identification. That is a feature of all SE(C)R labels.

In addition to the railways illustrated above there are some more obscure labels which have survived:

Lynton & Barnstaple
Plymouth, Devonport & South Western Junction
Kent & East Sussex
Isle of Wight
Isle of Wight (Newport Junction)
South Eastern and Chatham & Dover (joint)
Somerset & Dorset (prior to the 'Joint' era)
Somerset Central

When starting a collection there are some things that should be borne in mind::

  1. never stick the labels to anything. That's sacrilege as it always leaves a mark, is sometimes impossible to remove and is tantamount to destruction of an historical document.
  2. file the labels in a medium whereby it is easy to move them around into different arrangements as the collection grows.
  3. the stamp collecting hobby provides precisely that kind of media and any reputable dealer would advise accordingly. It would be inappropriate for a specific recommendation to be made here but please note that the 'collecting system' retailed by a certain very well known High Street stationer is non-standard whereby the spacing of the rings, at first sight the same as any other 4-ring binder, is actually slightly different and neither will fit the other.

If sufficient interest is shown in this page then this writer, Mike Morant, is prepared to create more detailed pages relating to specific topics complete with illustrations from his and other collections.

If you have an accumulation of luggage labels and you're not an experienced collector but want to know more about them then e-mail Mike directly with details of what they are (an illustration helps) and what you want to know about them.

Finally, what would one collect? The possibilities are legion. Perhaps a specific railway or type of label within that railway.
Other favourites are a topographical region or a specific branch line. Another is the locality where one lives or has particular nostalgic connotations.
One must also maintain a sense of proportion because there might be a temptation to collect, for example, one of each and every standard LBSCR type. Why would that be untenable? The Brighton was one of only very few railways whose labels include a station of origin. Imagine what a task that would be!

This page was last updated 22 April 2008

Index to Labels pages

SR Target